O. M. G. There are simply no words to describe this story and do it justice. A dark, gritty read start to finish, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience for the most part because I found myself enjoying things I most definitely shouldn’t have, and I am now convinced that Karina Halle could make me jump out of an airplane with a handkerchief instead of a parachute, because she makes Quentin Tarantino look like Walt fricking Disney. If you’re not afraid of an unconventional love story, one that won’t just push the boundaries of your comfort zone, but completely incinerate them, and still leave you smiling like a fool, I can’t recommend this trilogy highly enough. But like you’d take your shoes off at the door, walk into this story free from everything you’ve ever come to expect in a romance and allow yourself to enjoy the ride…in all its wicked depravity. Because with superb writing such as this, you won’t even want a seatbelt.
“The wife of a drug king. The queen of corruption.”
The love story between Luisa and Javier Bernal has never been a hearts-and-flowers kind of romance, their turbulent affair forged in the cauldron of the violent Mexican drug cartels, but while they were once partners and confidantes, the past year and a half has created a deep fissure in their marriage, turning them into two strangers living under the same roof. Once a ruthless, cunning, merciless man who was also capable of great tenderness towards his wife and loyalty towards his men, his twisted code of morals dictating his every decision, Javier’s grief over losing his beloved sister Alana has now turned him into a loose cannon. Unpredictable and blood-thirsty, violence has become his only outlet, making him no longer trust himself around his wife. Believing that there is no place for love in his life and that his feelings for her have become his ultimate weakness, the only thing capable of hurting him any further, he pushes Luisa away, seeing emotional distance as the only way of protecting them both.
“She had become my family, my confidante, my lover, my friend. She had become everything to me, in bed and outside of it. But she was a weakness, my weakness. She was what the would go after next, the last thing I could possibly lose. Unless I lost her first.”
Heartbroken and lost, Luisa keeps hoping Javier would find his way back to her, even though the loss of his affections is slowly making her lose herself and her purpose in this new life. She remains willing to forgive him for all his mistakes, to give him all of her, whichever way he needs it, just to have his love back. The distance between them, however, only seems to grow as time passes, driving Luisa to make desperate mistakes of her own.
“Please. Be rough. Hurt me. Make me bleed. Give me something.”
But while they are both busy licking their own wounds, a snake in the grass lies waiting, ready to strike and take all they’ve built together away from them. And once he does, this story explodes into an out-of-control inferno of events, each more shocking than the next, yet each fitting of this story and of these characters. This book is prickly, confronting, brutal more times than not, but it never pretends to be something it’s not, consistently zealous and out-of-the-box, and forever true to its premise. Stories like these are what nightmares are made of, but Ms Halle still manages to add a compelling human dimension even to the scariest of her monsters. And to paint even the most depraved of actions with a romantic brush. Gory, twisted, horrific from the get-go, this is not a fairy tale, each of these characters inherently flawed and damaged, but the beauty of this story lies in their self-awareness, in their ability to adapt to their circumstances, to forgive each other, to constantly push the limits of their own moral codes and keep redefining themselves in the process. Do yourself a favour and immerse yourself in this story with an open mind—you might end up loving it just as much as I have.
“It was only him and it was only me. King and Queen. That’s all that existed in this rusted, bloody space, between these two tortured, filthy souls.”